The Wardrobe Ensemble’s award-winning devised hit Education Education Education is coming to the West End for one month only. We’ve rounded up highlights from some of the production’s rave reviews to date to show you why you definitely don’t want to miss it! Time to get booking!
It’s May 1997. Tony Blair has won the election and Katrina and the Waves have won Eurovision. Channel 5 is a month old. The iPhone doesn’t exist, no one knows who Harry Potter is, Titanic is on the shelves of every Blockbuster and we have just won Eurovision. Britain is the coolest place in the world. At the local secondary school, it’s a different story.
Education Education Education stars Tom Brennan, Ben Vardy, Jesse Meadows, Emily Greenslade, James Newton and Tom England. Education Education Education has been devised by The Wardrobe Ensemble and is directed by Jesse Jones and Helena Middleton.
Talking to… James Newton
The Wardrobe Ensemble’s James Newton plays Tobias, the German language assistant who narrates the action in Education Education Education.
How did you first get involved with The Wardrobe Ensemble?
I’m one of nine founding members. We came together in 2011 in the pilot year of the Bristol Old Vic’s Made in Bristol programme, during which time we received two days a week training in exchange for running workshops. Some of us already knew each other, some had never met before – kind of a theatrical version of Popstars: The Rivals.
What’s unique about the Ensemble’s approach to making theatre?
All our work is made democratically. We have no Artistic Director so all decisions, both in and outside of the rehearsal room, have to be agreed upon by the group. It’s intensive and time-consuming, but it means that our work has a certain complexity when there are so many voices contained within it.
What’s been your personal Wardrobe highlight to date?
Performing our show 1972: The Future of Sex to a packed-out theatre tent at Shambala Festival in 2016. I’ll never forget the sound of 800 people cheering as I took my clothes off. I cried afterwards.
What was it like devising Education Education Education?
The creation of our previous show, 1972, had felt very insular and contained and personal. In contrast, the outside world shifted dramatically while we were making Education Education Education. The word ‘Brexit’ was barely on the radar when we began, and by the time we had finished the country had voted Leave. We didn’t go in intending to make a state-of-the-nation play, but we found it impossible to ignore what was going on in the outside world, which was certainly a challenge.
Tell us about your character.
Tobias is a German teaching assistant, who is thrilled to be flown into Wordsworth Comprehensive School in 1997 at the peak of Cool Britannia. He acts as our narrator, so is able to make observations about the school and the country from an outsider’s perspective. He’s quite personal to me: I lived in Berlin for a while so a lot of his thoughts and mannerisms came from my time spent there – and my German assistant at school was called Tobias!
Has your approach to the play changed since the previous run?
We haven’t made many conscious changes, but in rehearsals for this run, some parts of the play definitely feel like they’ve taken on a new weight. For instance, the opening lines of the play, spoken by Tobias to the audience are:
“Hi. Thanks for having me. I’m so excited to be here. You know, we in Germany, and Europe, well, the whole world actually, have been watching somewhat enviously as your country’s been undergoing a revolution, you might say.”
I can’t wait to see how this feels in front of an audience now.
What do you love/hate most about the 1990s?
I love the hope, the optimism and the music (especially the dance music). Hate the fashion. Ridiculous.
How do you feel bringing The Wardrobe Ensemble to the West End?
So excited. It’s taken us eight years to get here and feels like a real validation of our work. It’s rare for fringe companies like ours to reach this level, and we feel incredibly grateful to everyone that’s helped us to get here.
As soon as we end this run, The Wardrobe Ensemble start work on our new show, The Last of the Pelican Daughters, which is a co-production with Complicite. It’s about a group of siblings returning to the family home a year after their mothers’ death and looks at money, inheritance and loss. That’ll be on at Pleasance Courtyard for the whole of the Edinburgh Fringe.
After that, I’ll be appearing in an adaptation of Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner at the Unicorn Theatre in October. It’s a great dystopian story about a young boy who finds out the moon landings were fakes, and it will be directed by The Wardrobe Ensemble’s Jesse Jones.
Education Education Education runs from 31 May to 29 June 2019 at Trafalgar Studios 1, 14 Whitehall, London SW1A 2DY, with performances Mondays to Saturdays at 7.30pm, matinees on Thursdays and Saturdays at 2.30pm. Tickets are priced £25-45. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!